CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Sidney Crosby carefully picks his moments in terms of speaking out about various hockey issues. Monday, he had some criticism for Washington’s Tom Wilson, who is facing another suspension for a head hit Sunday on St. Louis’ Oskar Sundqvist in a preseason game.
Crosby, captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins, made a point of saying he thinks hits to the head are down around the NHL – “I think guys are pretty aware now. I don’t think there’s as many as their used to be. For the most part, guys are pretty aware out there of what’s legal and what’s not,” he said – but then there’s Wilson, a repeat offender.
“I mean, we’ve talked about it a lot with him,” Crosby said. “He still chooses to make those hits. I’m sure the league’s well aware of that. It’s not the first time we’re talking about a hit that he made, especially when you’re talking about us. For whatever reason, he still decides to do that.
“I just don’t know how many opportunities you need, you know? So obviously the point hasn’t been made yet.”
The Penguins’ season opener Thursday is against Washington at PPG Paints Arena. There is a good chance Wilson won’t be in the lineup. He has been offered an in-person hearing for his hit on Sundqvist, meaning he could be facing at least a six-game suspension.
Wilson also would miss the Capitals’ banner-raising after they won the Stanley Cup last spring. En route, Washington beat the Penguins in the second round, and Wilson delivered hits that injured defenseman Brian Dumoulin and winger Zach Aston-Reese. Wilson got suspended after breaking Aston-Reese’s jaw and leaving him with a concussion. Dumoulin went through concussion protocol but resumed playing in the series.
Wilson has been suspended three times in a little more than a year – two preseason games last year for a hit on St. Louis’ Robert Thomas, four games for a hit on the Blues’ Sam Blais last October, and three games for the hit on Aston-Reese.
“He’s a good player,” Crosby said of Wilson. “He’s got speed. He goes hard to the net. He’s a tough guy to play against. There’s really no reason to continue to hit like that.”
Crosby, who has had well-documented problems with concussions, not only is teammates with Aston-Reese and Dumoulin, but he also is former teammates with Sundqvist, a former Penguins center.
“You always feel for the guy (who is hurt) regardless of if you played with him or not, but you also understand that there are instances where guys get hit,” Crosby said. “It’s part of the game. It happens fast. Their intent’s not there.
“But when a guy does it a handful of times, you start to question what the intent is.”
Questioning whether a player would set out to intentionally injure another player is strong stuff.
“I think that’s why you probably feel stronger about certain incidents than others,” Crosby said. “And the fact that we play (the Capitals) a lot. We just came off a playoff series where we lost two guys because of a hit like that. I think it’s probably a little more fresh in your mind.”
Aston-Reese has steered fairly wide of any controversial statements about Wilson and just Sunday said he wasn’t looking for an apology. That was hours before the hit on Sundqvist. As of midday Monday there was no update on Sundqvist’s status. Wilson was ejected from the game.
“He was one of the first guys I met when I was down in Wilkes-Barre (with the Penguins farm team) and starting out my pro career,” Aston-Reese said of Sundqvist. He was a good teammate to me. I just hope he’s OK and he’s going to heal quickly and be back on the ice soon.
“You never want to see a guy get injured. It’s unfortunate. It does hit home just because I’ve gone through it, but there’s plenty of guys that have gone through it. It’s something the league has taken steps to prevent. Moving forward, I think (the league is) going to do the right thing.”
Aston-Reese was sent to Wilkes-Barre later in the day Monday.